How to immigrate to the UK as a nurse in 2023

ambulance parked in the UK

Health professionals are in high demand in the UK and even has its own visa, the Health and Care Worker visa. The UK government has set a target for 50,000 more nurses by 2024 in England alone, one of the ways to do this is to attract international talent. The National Health Service (NHS) is the largest employer in the UK with over 1 million staff, many of which were born abroad.

The pandemic has intensified the need for nurses in the UK with many overseas nurses already employed through the NHS, being granted permanent residency after 5 years.

Why is the UK working hard to attract healthcare workers?

The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK is under pressure due to factors such as an ageing population and a backlog worsened by the Covid19 pandemic. The population is increasing and many healthcare professionals are reaching retirement age. According to the Royal College of Nursing, the UK may face a shortage of nurses of 140,600 by 2030 if the current trend persists.

Which visa should I apply for?

The Health and Care Worker visa is the main pathway for healthcare professionals to the UK. It is a more favorable visa than most as it doesn’t include the healthcare surcharge and has a lower application cost. In 2022, there were 76,938 visas granted of which 32% came from India, 16% from Zimbabwe and 15% from Nigeria.

Applying for nursing jobs in the UK

Finding a job in the NHS can be a relatively straight forward process, but you have to be flexible with your preferences from location to job role. The NHS Careers website is the best place to find vacancies, you will have to create a profile before applying for jobs. Alongside this, we have contacts at a few hospitals and medical centres around the UK that may have opening that match your what your looking for. We do not recommend agencies.

The process of becoming a nurse in the UK / registration

Any nurse whether trained in the UK or overseas, is required to register with the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC). This is to ensure a minimum standard of quality care for the patients within the UK, it is the professional regulator for Nurses and provide guidance throughout your career. The total cost of registering with the NMC is £1,170 as of March 2022, this includes registration fees and sitting all exams. You will find more information on this process here, you should give yourselves around 6 months to register and pass all tests.

You will need to prove you have a minimum standard of English before you apply for jobs, you can achieve this by passing a Secure English Language Test (SELT). We can help you with this by preparing you with mock exams and resources, please see our Language Test page.

If you are a citizen of any of the below nations you are exempt from SELT automatically.

Antigua and Barbuda
Australia
The Bahamas
Barbados
Belize
Canada
Dominica
Grenada
Guyana
Jamaica
Malta
New Zealand
St Kitts and Nevis
St Lucia
St Vincent and the Grenadines
Trinidad and Tobago
USA

Career Path

Entry level graduates or overseas applicants will most likely enter the NHS as a Band 5 nurse, this is to gain experience working in a British hospital. As of April 2023, the starting salary for a nurse in band 5 is £27,055 in England & Wales, after 4 years this increases to £32,934. In Scotland, the starting salary is £28,384 in which after 4 years increases to £30,329. This does not include extra pay for working unsociable hours such as weekends and night shifts.

You will also be entitled to a minimum of 27 paid holidays per year alongside 8 bank holidays, if you work a bank holiday you will be entitled to extra pay. Maternity with the NHS includes 2 months full pay guaranteed, 7 months of at least half pay and an option for another 3 months unpaid without effecting your career.

Typically nurses work 12 hour shifts, usually 07.00 to 19.00 or 19.00 to 07.00, but this varies by role and hospital. Band 6’s and above who are at managerial level, tend to work Monday to Friday 09.00 to 17.00. Both bands contain a unpaid lunch hour.

Permanent Residency

After 5 years of the Health and Care Worker visa, you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). In addition to the number of years you have resided in the UK, you must also satisfy other requirements such as you must pass the Life in the UK test and have a speaking and listening qualification. Your application must also demonstrate that you have strong ties to the UK and have made this your home for the time you were here. The UK permanent residence process is not any more difficult than other G20 nations, but it is important to know how it works from the beginning or you could delay the process by several years.

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